February 22, 2008

Times Doesn't Pass The Smell Test: Seattle P-I (Update: Location, Location, Location)

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will never get mistaken as a conservative publication. It routinely editorializes in support of liberal causes and candidates, and it has come in for plenty of criticism for its decisions on publication decisions. They also routinely publish stories from their subscription to the New York Times syndication product. Today, however, David McCumber explains why he took a pass on the Times' hit piece on John McCain:

Obviously, the reporters, Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and Stephen Labaton, are not working for me. I have no way, other than their excellent reputations, of specifically evaluating their sourcing. That job fell to Bill Keller, the editor of The New York Times, who had held the story, citing concerns about whether the reporters had "nailed it," long enough to fatally fracture the newspaper's relationship with Thompson. She left today to go back to work for The Washington Post.

Admitting that Keller was in a better position to vet the sourcing and facts than I am as, basically, a reader, let's assume that every source is solid and every fact attributed in the story to an anonymous source is true. You're still dealing with a possible appearance of impropriety, eight years ago, that is certainly unproven and probably unprovable.

Where is the solid evidence of this lobbyist improperly influencing (or bedding) McCain? I didn't see it in the half-dozen times I read the story. In paragraphs fifty-eight through sixty-one of the sixty-five-paragraph story, the Times points out two matters in which McCain took actions favorable to the lobbyist's clients -- that were also clearly consistent with his previously stated positions.

That's pretty thin beer. ....

This story seems to me not to pass the smell test. It makes the innuendo of impropriety, even corruption, without backing it up. I was taught that before you run something in the newspaper that could ruin somebody's reputation, you'd better have your facts very straight indeed.

"Nailed" would be one way to describe that.

Even the Times' allies have run for cover on this story. The Times ran a story that actually didn't allege anything except that two disgruntled former staffers claim that they thought McCain might be too close to Iseman. That's it. There's no there there, to quote Dorothy Parker. (via Michelle Malkin)

UPDATE: Hey, at least the Times carried McCain's denial in today's edition .... on page A20. Run the smear on the front page in a two-column box; run the response in the back of the news section. Sounds like the kind of journalism that makes Tom Shipley proud!

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» Hypocrisy, thy name is from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
Yesterday, the once-respectable New York Times ran a hit piece on John McCain alleging, among other things, that he'd had an affair with a lobbyist about ten years ago. McCain, of course, denied it. The general reaction, even among some [Read More]

» The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Did What the New York Times Couldn’t from The American Mind
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, known for being flippant instead of helpful, surprisingly decided not to run the NY Times hack job on Sen. John McCain. Why? Managing editor David McCumber explains: To me, the story had serious flaws. It did not convin... [Read More]

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